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Labrador Hearts Project: Working to Reduce Canine Genetic Heart Disease

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) is a congenital heart defect that accounts for up to 7% of the heart defects in Labrador Retrievers. Sadly, the condition often goes undiagnosed until a dog starts showing exercise intolerance, exhibits signs of congestive heart failure or produces puppies that have the disease.

That’s why you may be interested to learn about Embark’s Labrador Hearts Project. An active research study, the Labrador Hearts Project aims to identify a genetic variant for the propensity to be born with TVD, and develop a genetic test to help breeders manage TVD in their lines.

Why Embark created the Labrador Hearts Project

Labrador TVD is being studied by a number of institutions, and we proactively collaborate on research that may result in early detection and lower mortality rates from this disorder. Indeed, deciphering TVD will take a village. But as the leader in dog DNA testing, with the world’s largest canine genetic database and a research-grade genotyping platform, Embark is uniquely positioned to lead research initiatives that can accelerate these discoveries.

What we know about Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD)

TVD is characterized by an abnormal tricuspid valve. Normally, this heart valve blocks backflow between the right ventricle and atrium, so blood can move to the lungs to become oxygenated. In dogs with TVD, oxygen-depleted blood seeps back into the right atrium. While this may cause only mild symptoms in some dogs, it can be fatal in others. Definitive diagnosis requires an echocardiogram by a veterinary cardiologist.

Previous research has suggested that the genetic cause of TVD appears to be a single gene defect that affects both sexes equally, with roughly 68% penetrance. It is believed to be an autosomal dominant trait; a dog needs only to inherit one copy of the variant, from either its sire or dam, to be at risk for TVD.[1] However, another study described a possible autosomal recessive mode of inheritance where two copies of the variant are needed to infer risk.[2] To determine the genetic cause of this disease, more research is needed.

Help us put an end to Labrador TVD

Embark is currently collecting  DNA samples from purebred Labrador Retrievers who have received an echocardiogram and have either: 1) been diagnosed with mild, moderate, or severe TVD, or 2) been confirmed clear. Not sure if your dog is eligible? Email us at

Qualifying participants will receive:

  • A complimentary Embark DNA test—get the world’s most comprehensive DNA profile, including health, trait, and COI analysis. (Embark provides a free cheek swab with prepaid shipping)
  • Ongoing updates—receive progress updates throughout the study
  • Post-study results —Embark strives to publish in open-access journals
  • Future opportunities—participate in new studies on Labrador health

Getting started is easy

To see if your dog qualifies for the study, just complete a brief form and sign up. (Please note: You’ll need to provide a copy of the echocardiogram results from your veterinary cardiologist). Our scientists will review your information and contact you with any next steps.

Sign up now

Even if your dog is not a participant, you can still spread the word. Link to this page on social media. Tell your breed club and veterinarian about the study. Or distribute information at a virtual event (contact us here, and we’ll provide you with the materials).

At Embark, we’re inspired by all your efforts to help end preventable disease in dogs. And we’re committed to working with our research partner, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, our organizational partners, and other researchers to realize our shared vision. To learn more about our research projects, click here.


Andelfinger, G., K. N. Wright, H.S. Lee, L.M. Siemens, and D.W. Benson. Canine tricuspid valve malformation, a model of human Ebstein anomaly, maps to dog chromosome 9. Journal of Medical Genetics, May, 2003


Thomas R. Famula, PhD; Lori M. Siemens, DVM; Autumn P. Davidson, DVM; Martin Packard, PhD. Evaluation of the genetic basis of tricuspid valve dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers. American Journal of Veterinary Research, June, 2002

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